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The Best Sales Discovery Questions for Effective Lead Qualifying

There’s nothing worse than spending hours building a relationship with a lead only to discover months later that they don’t need what you’re selling. The lousiest part is that it could all have been avoided with a simple call or meeting and a series of sales discovery questions at the start.

That’s not to say that setting up a meeting with your new prospect and firing away with a list of questions about their business is necessarily the answer. An effective discovery event calls for thoughtful and deliberate questions to ensure you have all the information you need to qualify your prospect as a potential lead.

Coming up with a solid set of sales discovery questions to cover all your bases can be tricky, though. That’s why we’ve gathered some of the most reliable discovery question examples to give you a hand.

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What is the sales discovery process?

The sales discovery process is a sales representative’s first set of interactions with a prospect to determine whether their product or service is a good fit for the prospect’s business. During this process, you can establish prospect pain points and goals. 

A well-considered sales discovery call or meeting helps you connect with prospects and lay the groundwork for solid customer relationships. The process also gives you insight into how to structure your sales efforts.

You may need more than one phone call or meeting to get a good sense of the prospect’s needs, and that’s perfectly fine. The sales discovery process can take place over multiple interactions. The important thing is to get the ball rolling as early as possible to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship going forward.

Why is the sales discovery process important?

The sales discovery process is essential because entering into discovery calls or meetings is helpful to both you and your prospect. These initial interactions are an opportunity to inform your prospect about the features and benefits of your product or service. 

You’ll also learn about your prospect’s business, their organization’s vision, and what their operation needs to succeed. From the information gathered, both you and your prospect will have a better idea of whether your offering will positively impact their business.

It’s also an opportunity to let your prospects know that you understand their challenges and want to see them succeed. After a thorough discovery process, you should know if there’s a chance that you’ll be able to win the prospect’s business.

The vital role of sales discovery questions

Never go into a discovery call or meeting prepared. Time wasted on a conversation without clear direction or results is time you could use to progress sales with more qualified leads. Knowing what to ask could be the difference between finding a great customer fit versus spending hours nurturing a prospect who needs a different solution or isn’t ready to buy.

To ensure a productive sales discovery interaction, you’ll need a series of targeted questions to determine whether your product or service suits the prospect’s needs. Asking the right questions from the start ensures you’re both on the same page before you even consider scheduling a sales presentation.

Effective discovery questions encourage discussion, meaning they are open-ended questions that prospects can’t simply answer with a “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.” Leading the conversation with great sales discovery questions will reveal your prospect’s challenges, objectives, and internal processes related to your product or service.

Examples of effective sales discovery questions

Working from a sales script verbatim seldom leads to a natural, comfortable conversation or a successful conversion. However, mapping out key sales discovery questions and discussion points can ensure a worthwhile discovery process. 

To help you get started, we’ve prepared some helpful sales discovery question guidelines and examples to get you the necessary answers.

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Questions to learn more about your prospect

Getting to know the ins and outs of your prospect’s business and the role your point of contact plays in it is your first port of call. You’ll begin by asking broader sales discovery questions about the business and then dig deeper to unearth more information.

Starting your discovery conversation with the following series of questions should help you gather the details you need to move to the next stage of the discussion:

  1. Tell me more about your company: Before asking this question, share what you know about the company’s business to show that you’ve done your research.
  2. I’d like to learn more about your role. What does your day-to-day look like? Casually ask about the prospect’s role so they’ll open up about what they do at the company.
  3. What metrics are most vital for you to measure in your role? Uncover how your prospect measures success to show them how your product or service will improve it.

Questions to understand the business needs

The next step is understanding the prospect’s business requirements, which means learning about obstacles, pain points, and goals. With these questions, you’ll identify areas where your product or service might benefit the business. If not, this company may not be a good fit for you.

Key questions to ask when qualifying your prospect are as follows:

  1. What are some of your core business goals for the next year/quarter?: Consider how long your product or service would take to set up, use, and garner results when determining the specific period you mention.
  2. When is the deadline for achieving these goals? Your meeting may be a month before the company’s annual goal assessment, in which case you’d pitch your offering to help them improve on goal metrics in the following year.
  3. Which areas of your current business processes are you happy with? This question should help you understand what’s working well at the company and why.
  4. Which areas of the business would you like to improve on? Here, you might be able to pinpoint areas where your product or service could improve upon the organization’s existing systems.

Questions to identify the prospect’s challenges

Now that you know what the business wants to achieve, it’s time to figure out what’s holding them back. Remember, the point of these sales discovery questions is to figure out how to help your prospect overcome an issue and attain their goals.

To find out more about the challenges your prospect faces, work these questions into the conversation:

  1. What obstacles have you faced preventing you from reaching your goals? Try to avoid directing the question to a specific area of their business to ensure you get a broader sense of the problems faced.
  2. Tell me about some actions you’ve taken to overcome these obstacles: The prospect’s answer should give you insight into how the company approaches problems and where its priorities lie.
  3. What alternative solutions have you considered? Use this question to determine challenges preventing the business from investing in other solutions, such as budget. 
  4. What do you think the ideal solution would be? You may hear some interesting answers here, but use them to pick up on what success looks like in the prospect’s eyes.
  5. What would resolving this problem mean for your business? This will give you an idea of how an effective solution, ideally your offering, will benefit the company.

Questions to qualify prospects as leads

In this phase of your sales discovery process, you want to understand whether your solution would be an option for the prospect and how buying decisions are made at their company. Dive into the following questions to qualify your prospect:

  1. What obstacles prevent you from implementing a more effective solution? By asking this question, you’re more likely to identify the core reasons the problem still exists and whether this will prevent the company from investing in your product or service.
  2. If presented with an ideal solution, how soon would you want to implement it? Asking this question will give you an idea of whether the company wants a solution urgently and if your solution would be ideal given the preferred timeline.
  3. What would be the budget available for a solution like this? This question provides a straightforward way to establish whether the prospect can afford your product or service.

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Questions to move your prospect along the pipeline

Once qualified, you’ll want to present a possible solution (your product or service) and provide a road map for testing, purchasing, and implementing your offering. You’ll also need some more information to ensure you deliver the best possible sales proposal to meet their needs and expectations.

Depending on the type of product or service you provide and the nature of your prospect company, consider these questions as your next step:

  1. Who will be included in the buying and decision-making process? Try to determine whether your point of contact is the decision-maker and if there’s anyone else who should be included in the conversation.
  2. What would the process for purchasing a product/service look like? The answer to this question should help you identify the next steps and what to expect going forward.
  3. Are you considering other similar offers? It’s essential to know whether you’ll be competing against others for the prospect’s business, and it may help you tailor a more attractive proposal.
  4. What are the potential roadblocks to you working with us? This question should let you know of any obstacles you might come across preventing the prospect from purchasing your solution.
  5. What can I do to make the decision-making process easier? Whether the prospect needs additional information or nothing at all, it’s worth giving them the opportunity to ask for assistance where needed.

Always firm up a date on which to follow up with the prospect before ending your sales discovery calls and meetings.

Tips for using sales discovery questions effectively

No two discovery calls or meetings are the same, so it’s crucial to have a few tips and strategies in mind before diving in. Some of the guidelines to ensure an effective sales discovery question session include:

  • Keep small talk to a minimum: Small talk is great as an opener, but it’s best to focus on the more crucial stuff throughout your conversation for a better chance at progressing to your sales process’s next stage.
  • Remember, it’s a conversation: Your discussion should sound less like a back-and-forth Q&A session and more like a natural conversation by thoughtfully timing questions and responding to the prospect’s answers before moving on.
  • Don’t ask too many questions: Asking 10 to 12 questions is ideal for one call or meeting, but anything over 15 questions is a bit much and should be left for another day.
  • Solve multiple problems: You may aim to solve an obvious problem at the onset, but the conversation might reveal other issues you could aim to resolve to sweeten the deal.
  • Time your call or meeting well: Mornings can be the busiest time for executives, so try to schedule your meeting or call for the afternoon, preferably early in the week.
  • Include customer stories: Find ways to add relatable stories about your existing customers and how you’ve resolved similar problems at their companies.

Beyond these tips, it is integral to execute the tried-and-true practices of taking comprehensive notes and using the prospect’s issues, needs, and vision of success to shape your proposal and value proposition.

Perfect your sales discovery process with the #1 next-action CRM

Arming yourself with a foolproof series of sales discovery questions is great. Having a robust CRM system to help you nurture leads and close more deals is even better. Nutshell is the ideal CRM solution to support your sales discovery process, qualify leads, and encourage conversions.

With Nutshell as part of your arsenal, you can:

  • Create custom pipelines to align with your process using Nutshell’s powerful pipeline management capabilities.
  • Book discovery calls and meetings with Nutshell’s native Scheduler tool.
  • Sync discovery events to your preferred calendar with seamless email and calendar synchronization.
  • Make a discovery call and record the conversation right in Nutshell with our click-to-call feature if you’re a Nutshell Pro user. 
  • Summarize Zoom discovery meeting transcriptions using the native Zoom integration for Nutshell Pro users.
  • View a timeline of all prospect interactions in the contact’s record.
  • Add notes to contact records to organize contact information and remind yourself of vital information discussed in your discovery call or meeting.
  • Send personalized automated follow-up emails with Nutshell’s email automation tools.
  • Connect with over 1,000 apps through Nutshell integrations, including document sharing, communication tools, and accounting software, to expand your CRM’s functionality.
  • Set up engaging email drip sequences, newsletters, broadcasts, and more with world-class built-in email marketing tools.

Choose Nutshell as your partner in sales and leverage its versatile features and user-friendly interface to nurture leads effectively, improve customer relationships, and encourage more wins.

Sign up today to try Nutshell free for 14 days, or get in touch with our team to set up a call or demo.

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